Wreck of World War II submarine USS Grayback discovered off Japan

Wreck of World War II submarine USS Grayback discovered off Japan

The U.S.S. Grayback, one of WWII’s most successful U.S. submarines, was discovered 1,400 feet below sea level off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, by explorer Tim Taylor and his team on 5 June and the find announced on 10 November.

USS Grayback, a U.S. Navy submarine lost in 1944 to enemy air attack, has been found.

The submarine was found by the Lost 52 Project, which locates lost U.S. World War II submarines, and is the first U.S. submarine discovered off the coast of Japan. Japanese records indicate that the sub was sunk by a 500-pound bomb dropped by a naval bomber in February 1944.

Wrong location

The search was conducted by U.S. and Japanese researchers who were the first to realize that an error in translation had misplaced the location of the ship’s sinking. Last year, researcher Yutaka Iwasaki , a systems engineer in Kobe, Japan, discovered a flaw in the translation of Japanese military documents; The Navy had made an error in translating the Japanese war records that detailed where the Grayback had likely sunk. All this time, the Navy's historical records had listed an incorrect longitude for the submarine's location.

With the help of autonomous underwater vehicles, remotely operated vehicles and advanced imaging technology, the team discovered the Grayback about 100 miles from the area where it was originally thought to have gone down. Lost 52 Project founder Tim Taylor described the discovery as “absolutely amazing.”



Severe bomb damage

The submarine sits upright on the bottom in 1,400 feet (430 m) of water. The deck gun was found approximately 400 feet from the primary wreckage. The wreck has severe damage aft of the conning tower, consistent with reports of a direct bomb hit in that area. Records from Japan indicated that Grayback had been hit by an aerial bomb from a Nakajima B5N while on the surface and further damaged by depth charges. The bow is broken off at an angle and a portion near the stern also imploded. Finally, the builder's plate remains attached to the intact bridge.

Commendations and awards

The submarine conducted a string of highly successful patrols in the western Pacific, ten in all. Grayback sank 14 Japanese ships, or 63,835 tons of enemy shipping, a figure that translates into nearly 40 times the submarine's own weight. She even sank the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-18, despite submarine vs. submarine warfare being a relatively uncommon occurrence in World War II.

The submarine and crew had received two Navy Unit Commendations for their seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth war patrols. Grayback's commanding officer John Anderson Moore was posthumously awarded his third Navy Cross after its last mission.